The automotive industry is in flux with the rise of self-driving and electric cars, and the concept of car ownership altogether being thrown into question. With this, the car insurance industry is changing, too, and now, an on-demand car insurance startup has raised a large round of funding as it aims to be leader of that change.
Metromile, the provider that lets you pay-per-mile for insurance, said that it has raised a whopping $191.5 million in funding — “primarily equity”, according to CEO Dan Preston. Metromile will use the money to acquire an insurance carrier called Mosaic Insurance to handle the underwriting of its policies itself; as well as to expand new states in the U.S. and continue building its platform.
Preston declined to disclose the company’s valuation with its latest round.
As notable as the size of Metromile’s funding is the list of investors behind it. They include a couple of insurance giants, Canada’s Intact Financial and China Pacific Insurance (CPIC); top VCs Index Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), First Round Capital, Mitsui and SV Angel; Metromile founder and Chairman David Friedberg (of Climate Corporation fame); and Mark Cuban.
The funding is a surprising and large boost for a company that has been around since 2011 but has seemingly only raised $14 million before now. (And to be clear, the $191.5 million being announced today is actually three rounds rolled into one. CEO Dan Preston tells me it includes a Series D funding of $103.1 million; an additional strategic investment of $50 million from China Pacific Insurance; and a Series C financing from late 2014 that was never made public, of $38.4 million.)
In the interim, Metromile has acquired licenses to operate in all 50 U.S. states although it’s currently only underwriting policies in four: New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia. With the funding, that underwriting will expand to California, Illinois and Washington, and beyond.
“We will start accelerating our state roll out at the beginning of 2017,” Preston said. “For the time being, our focus is on the huge opportunity for per-mile insurance in the US but we’re excited about exploring global opportunities with partners in the future.”
Metromile sells its insurance directly to those who will be using it, but one of the big ways that it can acquire those users is through alliances with others. So far there has been only one of these, with the ridesharing behemoth Uber, which partnered with the startup in 2015 to provide an option for insurance coverage for those times when you are not carrying a passenger (which falls under a different insurance scheme).
Preston says that it’s continuing to work with Uber and the change over to Metromile underwriting all of its own insurance — a result of the Mosaic acquisition — will not impact Uber drivers “for the time being.”
“We are focused on moving our personal business over first. The new claims experience is currently only available for Metromile’s personal policies,” he said. “Uber driver-partner policies will continue to be underwritten by insurers in the National General Insurance Group and their coverage will not be compromised in any way.”
Metromile has carved out a reputation for disrupting some of the more obvious inefficiencies of the standard insurance business model and the pricing that has been developed around it.
“Sixty-five percent of drivers pay higher premiums to subsidize the minority who drive the most,” Preston explained. The cases where this is perhaps most acute are in cities where people are not entirely dependent to their cars. “Our go to market strategy is focused on large urban areas and aimed at developing a brand with each city that we roll out into. The people who switch to pay-per-mile insurance commute differently. They take multiple forms of public transit, walk, bike or even ride-share to work so a usage based option makes more sense to them.”
While Metromile is tapping into some of the bigger changes that are taking place in the world of transportation, taking on traditional big providers like Geico, Progressive and State Farm, it’s not the only one. There are many of other companies offering pay-as-you-go car insurance right now, including those same huge insurance conglomerates through to startups (some of which have closed due to competition from the large players).
Preston says that the others are different because they use other instruments to measure a driver’s actions to provide a rate.
“What many people call pay as you go insurance is actually behavioral based insurance,” he said. “Metromile is the only multi-state per-mile insurance product and does not rate based on behavior other than miles driven.” Metromile’s model reduces insurance costs for low-mileage drivers by charging based on actual usage of the vehicle. It does this by way of a small wireless device called the Metromile Pulse, which plugs into the diagnostic port of the insured’s vehicle to count the number of miles driven. Drivers are then billed a base rate and a per-mile rate. The company claims that its typical, low-mileage customer can save, on average, $500 per year on insurance.
Preston adds that Metromile’s second differentiator is down to “urbanization and a shifting mindset of millennials.” By this, he means that the less frequent and less regular use of cars by these groups makes per-mile services — which would otherwise work out to be very expensive for more habitual drivers — more appealing.
The third factor that drives users to Metromile is the company’s app. Similar to how many other startups have disrupted their incumbent predecessors, Metromile provides a mobile experience that lets users see and track just how much they are using the insurance and how much they will need to pay. It also has other features like vehicle location, travel data and more.
The changing landscape for transportation will potentially present new opportunities for Metromile in the future.
One area is in connected cars, where you could imagine Metromile being integrated as a built-in option by the automakers: “We have not yet announced any integrations with connected car companies, but are extremely excited about the opportunity,” he told me when I asked about potential partnerships.
Similarly, autonomous and shared-ownership cars — areas that companies like GM, with its Maven initiative, are investing a lot of effort these days — are also targets.
“With multiple types of mixed-use vehicles and autonomous cars, the nature of insurance risk modeling is going to change and insurance companies should aim to adapt to it,” Preston said. “From a consumer perspective, car ownership will continue to be important for people in the US for many years. That said, commuting miles will change because of better public transportation infrastructure and more transportation options which is why pay-per-mile insurance is an important option.”
As we’ve seen in other industries, while Metromile may potentially cut into the business of large insurance companies, it’s also attracting these same competitors as strategic investors, who invest as a hedge against their own existing business.
“Metromile is a proven leader in usage-based insurance technology,” said CPIC in a statement. “Our relationship with Metromile gives us the opportunity to more closely understand the pay-as-you-drive model, allowing us to create more innovative products and a better service experience for the younger and digitalized generation of the future.”
“Our goal, in partnering with Metromile, was to build a relationship that would allow both organizations to strengthen their core competencies in order to enhance the customer experience,” said Karim Hirji, Senior Vice-President, International & Ventures, Intact Financial Corporation, in a statement. “We look forward to this ongoing collaboration as Metromile redefines the marketplace with its unique business model, innovations and smart technology offerings.”